Justice Edward T. Sanford

On this date in 1865, Justice Edward T. Sanford was born in Knoxville, Tennessee.  Sanford was the eldest son of prominent businessman, Edward J. Sanford, who was president or vice-president of nearly a dozen banks and corporations.  As a result, his son, Edward T. Sanford received one of the finest educations possible.  After receiving a B.A. and Ph.B. from the University of Tennessee in 1883, Sanford went on to Harvard where he received a B.A. in 1885 and an M.A. in 1889.  Sanford also graduated Harvard Law School in 1889 with an LL.B.  After completing school, Sanford returned to Knoxville and entered private practice from 1890 to 1907.  From 1898 to 1907, Sanford also served as a lecturer at the University of Tennessee School of Law.  After serving a stint as a special assistant to the Attorney General of the United States from 1905 to 1907, Sanford became an Assistant Attorney General of the United States in 1907 under President Theodore Roosevelt.  While in this capacity, Sanford led the prosecution in U.S. v. Shipp, et. al., which remains the only criminal trial ever held before the United States Supreme Court.

On May 14, 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt nominated Edward T. Sanford to a seat on the United States Distict Court for the Eastenrn and Middle District of Tennessee.  After 15 years on the federal bench in Tennessee, Sanford’s friend, Chief Justice William Howard Taft conducted a successful lobbying effort on Sanford’s behalf.  As a result, on January 24, 1923, President Warren Harding nominated Edward T. Sanford to serve as an Associate Justice on the United States Supreme Court for the seat vacated by Justice Mahlon Pitney who resigned for health reasons.  Justice Sanford wrote 130 opinions while on the Court and aligned himself closely to Chief Justice Taft.  Justice Sanford best known opinion was in Gitlow v. New York, wherein he implied that the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment incorporated onto the states some of the protections afforded in the Bill of Rights.  Gitlow would be cited for just that by the United States Supreme Court during the 1950’s and 60’s.  After serving seven years on the Court, Justice Sanford died unexpectely on March 8, 1930 in Washington, D.C. from uremic poisoning following a tooth extraction.  Ironically, Justice Sanford died just hours before his greatest champion, mentor and close friend, Chief Justice Taft.